Surveys are wonderful tools. They can tell us a great deal about the world we live in and the way our businesses are viewed by the people we hope to connect with. There are many great metrics that can form the subject of an informative survey: satisfaction, customer experience, efficacy of design… but what about trust? What does it mean for a consumer to put their trust in a business?
According to a recent report by the PR firm Edelman, only 47 per cent of Canadian respondents said they “trust” business, down 15 percentage points from last year’s trust survey. This rather alarming statistic can be broken down into some interesting categories:
- Big business was the poorest-performing category in the trust survey, earning the faith of just 41 per cent of respondents.
- State-owned business are considered less trustworthy, at 45 per cent.
- Family-owned enterprises were surveyed as the most trust-worthy (79 per cent.)
That last point is particularly telling. Amid nightly newsworthy controversies ranging from tailings breaches to food contaminations to fraud to wage manipulation to explosions, consumers have grown increasingly cynical in their perceptions of big business activity. (A little self-deprecation: bloggers were ranked as some of the least trustworthy businesspeople around. Take that as you will!) However, smaller family-owned businesses outperformed the median in Edelman’s trust survey by leaps and bounds.
Why could this be? Put simply: consumers are no longer impressed by the fact that products and services are simply functional or adequate. Evidence of a strong sense of investment in vibrant business culture and people-first practices have become the metrics by which businesses are evaluated and through which they gain trust among the community. The report accompanying the trust survey states:
The trust-building opportunity for business… lies squarely in the area of integrity and engagement. These areas encompass actions such as having ethical business functions, taking responsibility to address issues or crises, having transparent and open business practices, listening to customer needs and feedback, treating employees well, placing customers ahead of profit and communicating frequently on the state of the business.
Small businesses are uniquely equipped to succeed in each of these actions. Your small business has the ability for customers to get to know your business personally. You succeed by being seen as not only a provider of goods or services but rather a component of your market’s local cultural identity.